While on vacation at the end of June, a story idea hit me. As I was driving through Yellowstone watching the bison lumber across Hayden Valley, the story grew from a mere idea to a full-fledged novel. I envisioned the flashpoint that caused the conflict, how the story would unfold, and most of the ultimate resolution of the story. By the time we left Yellowstone, I had outlined the novel in my head.
For a writer, having everything come together like that is a godsend. We often use otherworldly terms to describe the way stories enter our brains and settle in for the long haul of writing a novel. That’s how magical it is.
It’s one thing to have a concept – I have many of those written in my notebook, but it’s a whole different ballgame to have a fleshed out idea that can quickly become a novel. Concepts are merely starting points. An outline or story arc is something you can actually work with and begin writing almost immediately.
And therein lies the issue. When I left for vacation, I was working on another novel. I had finished six chapters and was well on my way to getting it done by the end of this year (hopefully), but progress had slowed as I had debated the story arc and developed some character quibbles that I didn’t think were working as well as I had envisioned originally. This story idea had come to me over a decade ago, and I think maybe that time fermenting in my notebook may have worked against it. I had decided to leave the story behind while on vacation in hopes that I could come back to it with fresh eyes. Instead, I came back with the idea for another novel.
When I sat down in my office that first Monday back from vacation to write, I decided I couldn’t wait until I finished my current work-in-progress to start on my new novel idea. The new story burned a hole in my mind and I couldn’t let the passion and excitement for it die down. I had to write it while it’s hot. I had to get the idea on the pages of my writing program. So I did, and now I’m already six chapters into this book and still going strong. I may be finished with it by the end of September if this pace keeps up.
I’m not the least bit sorry that I took a hiatus from my work-in-progress to write this story. I have to go with the hot hand, and my new story is it. Sometimes, when your progress grinds to a halt like it had in my other novel, you start to lose grip on why you do this – why you enjoy writing – because stalling projects are frustrating. What I needed was for this to be fun again, and the new novel made it so. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.